Category Archives: Video Games

Harebrained Schemes Reveals BattleTech: Flashpoint Gameplay, Kills Dekker

Crab Flashpoint

courtesy of Harebrained Schemes

Harebrained Schemes and Paradox Interactive just finished their first livestream gameplay reveal of the upcoming Flashpoint expansion for BattleTech.

Last Thursday, Harebrained bigwig Mitch Gitelman and lead BattleTech designer Kiva Maginn sat down with Anders Carlsson of Paradox Interactive to do a live Twitch stream of an early development build of the upcoming BattleTech expansion, Flashpoint. And they barely made it out with a single ‘Mech.

Flashpoints are a new post-campaign mission type where the player will engage in a sort of BattleTech short story. Each contract is comprised of a series of missions varying between two to six. Since these all take place one after the other, there won’t be any chance for major refits or for pilots to recover from injuries. You’ll need to have an A-team and a B-team of both ‘Mechs and pilots to replace your losses throughout the Flashpoint.

Since these missions take place after the campaign, it assumes the player is an experienced veteran and is looking for an additional challenge. Thus, the missions are likely going to be harder than your average campaign mission. However, the rewards for completing a Flashpoint can include Lostech, rare equipment, and other such goodies that might make the sacrifice in man and machine worth it.

The initial teaser made it seem like Flashpoints weren’t available until after the main campaign, but Gitelman let it drop that there are some changes coming in patch 1.3 that might allow Flashpoints to occur concurrently with the campaign–so long as you’re at an “open sandbox” portion, that is.

Obviously things are still in development and subject to change, but this seems like it’ll greatly enhance the core BattleTech gameplay.

Kiva and Mitch showed off a single mission during the stream with a new mission type called “Target Acquisition”. This new mission type requires you to bring a lance of fast but tough machines since you’ll need to split your forces to grab several key locations in order to call in an artillery drop. Each ‘Mech needs to be fast enough to get to the location quickly, but tough enough to take a beating once they get there.

Our Harebrained heroes were up against two full Steiner lances, which meant they were up against a lot of heavy firepower. Also, since they were looking to show off the new ‘Mech designs, their composition wasn’t exactly ideal. Consequently, two pilots died and one ejected (and yes, Dekker was one of them).

We got our first good look at the new Crab, Hatchetman, and Cyclops designs before most of them bought it. The Crab is as expected: swift, low-slung, and filled to the brim with lasers. The Hatchetman can be a deadly combatant in melee but is vulnerable to long-range fire. The Cyclops comes with a Lostech Battle Computer that will greatly affect your lance’s resolve, but Harebrained is still tweaking by just how much.

From the looks of things, this Flashpoint would be hard even for a fully prepared mercenary commander. Mitch said that the team had actually nerfed the difficulty twice, so maybe this is a case where some more tweaks are still in store. At least the new tropical biome looked gorgeous throughout the video.

You can check out the whole stream on Paradox’s Twitch channel, or here where I’ve helpfully embedded it for you. I’m helpful.

Watch BattleTech from ParadoxInteractive on www.twitch.tv

We don’t know when in November Flashpoint will come out, but even if it’s a little later in the month that’s still just a few weeks away. If you’ve already gone through a few campaigns in BattleTech, be prepared to dust off your old save file to get ready to drop jokers with a hatchet to the face.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Original BattleTech Pods In Grand Rapids Michigan Moving To New Dedicated Site

courtesy of Virtual World Entertainment

courtesy of Virtual World Entertainment

Some original BattleTech Center virtual reality pods are moving to a new dedicated “Pod Site” in Grand Rapids Michigan.

Those old enough to remember the Virtual World Entertainment pods will be happy to hear that they’re alive and well, and the set located in Michigan are migrating to a new location where they will continue to be tweaked, preserved, and even played in.

A few weeks ago, current Virtual World Entertainment owner Nickolas “PropWash” Smith posted to the BattleTech subreddit that he’ll be taking a contingent of the original BattleTech: Firestorm pods from their current storage location and bringing them to a dedicated pod site in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Previously, your best opportunity to get insides one of these delightful relics was to go to one of the many conventions where Nick and the gang bring their portable pods. However, with the new site, you’ll have a chance to get a real taste of what it’s like to be in a “real” ‘Mech cockpit–minus the oppressive heat and need for a neurohelmet of course.

courtesy of Virtual World Entertainment

For those not old enough to remember, Virtual World Entertainment was the FASA off-shoot that dealt with turning the games that FASA made into “location-based entertainment experiences,” more commonly referred to as arcade games. They had a pretty nice heyday throughout the ‘90s, but as the demand for arcades began to wane in the early 2000’s (combined with FASA’s decision to abruptly cease operations in 2001), Virtual World was put up for sale.

Microsoft first acquired Virtual World Entertainment along with FASA Interactive, but then they sold Virtual World again to an investment group.

At the time, these simulator pods were state of the art arcade games that an investment firm would have seen no value except to sell for scrap. Some pods almost certainly were scrapped, but a concerted effort from Virtual World owners and a dedicated player community managed to save most of these pods from the scrap yard.

And while there are multiple former Virtual World pods out there operated by several different groups, the original Virtual World Entertainment company continues to remain operational under the ownership of one Nickolas Smith. Nick purchased the company in 2005 and has dutifully safeguarded these priceless pieces of real-life Lostech for 20 years.

courtesy of VGLU on Facebook

And upgraded them. The pods themselves weren’t originally meant to be carried from convention to convention, and only with diligent work from many dedicated enthusiasts were they able to become portable. This allowed Nick (as well as others pod owners) to bring their hardware to various BattleTech conventions.

Between conventions, these Michigan based pods were initially kept in storage at Nick’s house–a far cry from the public arcades they used to be found in. I myself remember getting my first lick at a BattleTech pod from a Dave and Buster’s over a decade ago. I’m nowhere near a convention that BattleTech is featured at, so without an arcade, I’d have never been able to enjoy pulling levers and pushing pedals as though I were a real ‘Mech pilot.

Obviously, keeping a bunch of VWE pods at a random house in Michigan is less than ideal. Nick moved his cockpits to Grand Rapids in 2010 and put them under the care of Jeff Perry at the Big Kidz Games retail store. Now they’re being moved to a new site storage in Grand Rapids that will open during select special events for public play or by private reservation. The new location will be called the Virtual Geographic League Underground, or VGLU for short–a call back to the fictional Virtual World origins story.

I had a chance to speak to Nick recently, and he says that the new location will operate by word of mouth and social media–sort of like a modern speakeasy. If you follow the Virtual World Entertainment Facebook group (or the VGLU Facebook group) then you’ll be able to ask how and when you can get your hands behind the control sticks of a piece of BattleTech history.

Currently there are 18 pods, all running both BattleTech: Firestorm–that’s the one based on MechWarrior 4. But these pods are running far more than the original software. They’ve been tweaked, modded, and improved beyond what you might remember. All the original ‘Mechs are still there, but there are also the MekTek ‘Mech Packs that expanded the MechWarrior 4 arsenal to over 100 chassis, and even more custom designs added after that.

The new Grand Rapids site will open during Brocktoberfest on October 12th through 14th (Brocktoberfest being a reference to the game Red Planet that I didn’t understand beyond the fact that Red Planet was another game run on the Virtual World pods). The best way to get involved is via the Facebook groups I linked above.

And while you’re there, consider making a donation–these pods are kept alive and even improved thanks to the hard work of some dedicated individuals, but MacGyvering replacement parts in an ever-dwindling supply can get expensive.

For those not in the Michigan area, there are plenty of other locations to try out these incredible machines, including locations in Albuquerque, Houston, Minneapolis, and a site recently opened in Montreal, Canada. Check out the link here for specific locations.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

 

BattleTech Releases Teaser Video For New Expansion: Flashpoint

BattleTech Releases Teaser Video For New Expansion: Flashpoint

courtesy of Gamestar

BattleTech is about to get its first expansion called Flashpoint.

We knew this day was coming. BattleTech has been a great success for Harebrained and new publisher Paradox Interactive, and various HBS personalities have been dropping hints for a while that an expansion was in the offing. Now it has a name: Flashpoint.

Rather than a whole new campaign to play alongside the original, Flashpoint will instead be a whole bunch of smaller stories that are book-ended by procedurally generated missions. Some of them have to be played back-to-back without any opportunity for rest and refit, adding to the sense that you’re a mercenary company on extended operations in the field.

New conversation options, no critical decisions, and new special events will all find their way into Flashpoint’s multi-story campaign.

There’s no word on whether you retain your company from the original campaign or start a brand new merc company with the new story. We’ll have to wait for more details on that one.

We here at Sarna know that fantastically written stories will only take you so far. Harebrained knows that too. That’s why they’re adding three new ‘Mechs to the game, and for the first time ever, one of them has a melee weapon: the Crab, the Cyclops, and the Hatchetman.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment. The Hatchetman. For the first time ever, you’ll be able to swing your big, stupid ax at some schmuck and watch them literally come apart at the seams.

Unfortunately, due to the momentous occasion of the Hatchetman arriving in a BattleTech video game, I won’t be able to extoll the virtues of the Crab or Cyclops–both fantastic ‘Mechs in their own right. The Hatchetman is just that big of a deal.

Alright, let’s take a few deep breaths before we move on.

There’s a new biome, which will be very beach-y, and there’s a new mission type called “Target Acquisition” which will give your light and medium ‘Mechs something to do while the assaults facetank. Judging by the press release, it’s probably something to do with “capture the flag” or whatever.

Did I mention the Hatchetman is coming? I might have gotten excited and forgotten to mention the Hatchetman.

We don’t have a release date other than the standard “coming soon” at the end of the teaser video. If Paradox follows the same pattern with expansions for their other games (and as a player of Stellaris, I’m intimately familiar with this pattern), then we can expect a price around 20 bucks (or $30 if you’re an unlucky Canuck like I am).

Hatchetman.

And as always MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Retro BattleTech Games, “MechWarrior 3050”

MechWarrior 3050

Welcome back to Did You Know?, the Sarna series where we look at some of the obscure corners of BattleTech history. We’re continuing our series on retro BattleTech video games with a look at an old favorite from the days of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System: MechWarrior 3050.

I go on a lot about how MechWarrior 2 was the first BattleTech game I’ve ever played, and while we’ll eventually get to the Activision classic where I will sing its praises to the high heavens, it is not actually the first BattleTech game I ever played.

That dubious honor goes to MechWarrior 3050. Or actually, the Sega Genesis version, which was named BattleTech for no particular reason other than to differentiate itself. It’s the same game, although the SNES version was developed by Tiburon Entertainment and the Sega game was made by Malibu Interactive. Tiburon eventually got sucked into the enormous games empire that became EA, while Malibu Interactive morphed into a “media management” company and no longer makes video games.

Malibu Interactive pioneered the sort of top-down isometric gameplay that became the hallmark of various games throughout the early ‘90s published through EA. Somehow, the boys over at Malibu managed to get their hands on a BattleTech license and made their own game, following the same format they used in the Strike series of helicopter games: Desert Strike and Jungle Strike. Tiburon eventually ported it to the SNES under the name MechWarrior 3050 to leech off the popularity of MechWarrior 2, which was a best-selling PC game at the time.

I played both Desert Strike and Jungle Strike and I loved every second of them. It was perhaps the very first “open sandbox”-style of game I’d ever played (having skipped The Legend of Zelda since elves were lame, but attack helicopters were cool). And while Desert Strike and Jungle Strike managed to create an engaging and fun experience, MechWarrior 3050 suffered from quite a few problems.

Pic 2

But first, a brief explanation for those unfamiliar with the game. In MechWarrior 3050 (or BattleTech for us Sega babies) you play as an unnamed Clan Wolf MechWarrior during the invasion of the Inner Sphere. Missions amount to little more than orders being barked at you by Galaxy Commander Conal Ward (although he’s called Colonel Ward in the game) and then you got dropped solo in your Timberwolf to carry out those orders behind enemy lines.

Before each mission, you’re able to customize your ‘Mech’s armament to suit the objective, choosing between ER PPCs, Gauss Rifles, Arrow VI Missiles (even though those should be Arrow IVs) and a selection of smaller armaments. Each weapon has different properties, such as extreme range on the Arrow VIs or an area-of-effect cluster bomb-like explosion on the Gauss Rifle.

For those of you who haven’t played the game, you’re probably already a little annoyed with all the weird departures from BattleTech canon this game has already taken. Trust me, those departures are hardly the worst aspects of MechWarrior 3050. If you want an exhaustive list of every way the game diverges from BattleTech lore, you can check out the Sarna wiki-page on the matter. Suffice to say, Malibu Interactive played VERY fast and loose with the lore, which is likely why it never really caught on with the BattleTech faithful.

I played this game back before I’d even known about the BattleTech universe, but even then I found some of the game’s choices pretty questionable. Why did lasers require ammunition? Why did my ‘Mech never take damage and instead required “coolant” to repair itself? Why did Gauss Rifles arc and explode like cluster bombs when the booklet said it was a magnetically accelerated slug?

It was weird, but if you’re willing to look past it, there were worse problems.

Easily the biggest issue the game has was the big-honkin’ 75-ton ‘Mech sitting in the middle of the screen. In order to give the impression of size, Malibu made the Timberwolf appropriately large in comparison to everything else. The only problem with that was that your ‘Mech took up most of your view and prevented you from seeing your opponents before they were already on top of you.

Mostly due to your own ‘Mech taking up most of the screen, the game was extremely challenging. You’d be getting shot from off-screen with no other warning besides your ‘Mech taking damage. Enemy ‘Mechs would charge in and get off multiple shots before you could even respond, causing the player to panic and miss vitally important retorts.

Pic 5

Besides that, there were various tunnels and bases that would endlessly spawn enemies until the player could destroy them. This endless spawn system would also tax your limited ammunition supplies, making empty ammo bins a common enough problem that the player would be forced to commit seppuku just to restock their weapons (you had three lives for each mission, and respawning meant a full ammo bin). 

In Malibu’s previous helicopter-based games, it was possible to take your time and carefully assess situations before committing to action. In MechWarrior 3050, that wasn’t an option. Endlessly spawning enemies combined with limited perspective made the only method of progression a depressing grind of trial and error, repeating each planet until you’d simply memorized the locations of all ammo drops and enemies.

To sum up, MechWarrior 3050 was really freakin’ hard. I beat it once, but after that, I traded it in for a copy of Jungle Strike where I had infinitely more fun.

In retrospect, I think that MechWarrior 3050 was an attempt by an EA-affiliated developer to cash in on an established audience. They took the same engine from their previous games, replaced the helicopter with a giant stompy robot, and then threw in a bunch of random bits of BattleTech lore without bothering to fact check or even ensure that anything made sense. There was a distinct lack of polish compared to previous offerings that really soured the whole thing.

The most hilarious aspect of the game was how Colonel Ward would just announce your promotion until eventually declaring you Kahn, but he’d still act like he was your boss.

Was there anything good about MechWarrior 3050? Well, your Timberwolf’s animation looked very smooth (especially in comparison to enemy ‘Mechs), and it was certainly a challenging game. But these minor pros don’t counterbalance the much larger list of cons.

I give MechWarrior 3050 1 star out of 5.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Did You Know? – Retro BattleTech Games, “The Crescent Hawks’ Inception”

 

Welcome back to Did You Know?, the Sarna feature where we take a look at some of the more obscure corners of BattleTech history. We’re kicking off a series on retro video games, and what could possibly be more retro than the very first BattleTech computer game than BattleTech: The Crescent Hawks’ Inception?

Originally released in 1988, this bad boy was made for the original Commodore 64. I’m not nearly old enough to remember these ancient personal computers, but if they’re anything like the Nintendo 64, it must’ve been revolutionary for its time.

To get this game to function on a modern computer would require running a virtual machine on Windows and possibly some light computer engineering knowledge that I simply don’t have the time or inclination to learn. Luckily, we live in the age of the internet, and no matter how old or obscure the game, someone has done a Let’s Play series about it on YouTube.

We have MrTatteredRags to thank for this lovely Let’s Play that goes from beginning to end of The Crescent Hawks’ Inception, which I will henceforth shorten to simply CHI. Produced by Westwood Associates (the developer that would eventually become the legendary Westwood Studios of Command & Conquer fame) CHI followed the standard format for most Infocom games at the time–that being a text-based adventure game with a few basic animations and the most god-awful sound effects possible.

Just take a few moments to experience the game’s opening. This is bad, even by 1988 standards.

Full disclosure: I’ve experienced text-based adventure games before, but they were usually only in the form of a brief joke scene in a more modern game. The only game I’ve ever played that took the genre seriously was Space Ranger, a Russian top-down space adventure game that mixes RTS and RPG elements as well as the aforementioned text adventure portion.

Frankly, I don’t know how anyone can endure an entire game that’s just wandering around Legend of Zelda-style until you have to do some light reading and option selection, but the late ‘80s were a vastly different time for gaming.

In CHI, you play as Jason Youngblood, a young military cadet on the Steiner planet of Pacifica (aka Chara III). You’re the son of war her Jeremiah Youngblood, the Lyran HQ’s security chief and someone who oddly has the ear of Archon Katrina Steiner.

Crescent Hawk 4

He’ll soon die and leave you in charge of a guerrilla campaign to overthrow invaders from the Draconis Combine, but before then you’re just a cadet in training. So you can wander around and do some training missions to learn how to use guns, rifles, and even a bow and arrow.

Learning how to use a bow and arrow seems oddly low-tech in the world of BattleTech, but again, it was the ‘80s. You weren’t a warrior until you learned how to kill a man with a bow and arrow.

You can also go on training missions in ‘Mechs–ostensibly the whole reason why you’re there. Your choice of machine is either a Locust, Wasp, or the rarely seen Chameleon. There’s little to say for the animation of any particular ‘Mech with the 8-bit designs basically getting the overall outline correct without providing much detail.

Crescent Hawk 3

Eventually on one of your training missions, the Draconis Combine invades, destroys the training academy, and leaves you alone to assemble a crack team of Drac-fighting commandos including a ‘Mech tech, a field nurse, and even a former Kell Hound. This is when the game really picks up and where your earlier training determines how easy you find the game’s remaining tasks.

It turns out that the Dracs are on Pacifica to raid an old Star League-era weapons depot that your father discovered while stationed here. You also find out that your father was actually the commander of an elite covert operations team called the Crescent Hawks, and as you wander around Pacifica gathering allies you adopt your father’s unit name and assume command.

I guess “cadet” makes you the ranking officer on planet?

There are a lot of holes like this in the general plot of the game. Apparently the Crescent Hawks are also somehow related to the Kell Hounds (because almost everything good and noble in the Lyran Commonwealth is related to that mercenary company) and the Crescent Hawks were given carte blanche from Katrina Steiner herself to operate as an independent military unit.

Crescent Hawk 5

Another thing I found somewhat odd was how everything in the game costs C-bills. That’s fine, Lyrans are merchants after all, but you’d think being a guerrilla group operating on a recently invaded planet that the locals might be a bit more eager to help out with donations.

Perhaps the greatest sin this game makes, however, is how it ends with such an obvious setup for the sequel (SPOILER ALERT!). You barely resolve anything: Jason locates the Star League-era cache, finds his dad’s ‘Mech (a PHX-HK2 Phoenix Hawk LAM of all things), and you escape the planet via dropship with a communique direct from Katrina offering you a commission in the Lyran Armed Forces.

Phoenix Hawk LAM

But no, you refuse her offer to go looking for your father, who must surely still be alive since you found his ‘Mech (I know there are other reasons too, but that was the big “payoff” near the end-game).

As much as the whole game reads as BattleTech fan-fiction rather than anything even remotely approaching canon, it seems that Crescent Hawks’ Inception was well received by the fan base. So well received that it became written into canon in subsequent official publications from FASA.

Personally, I think that CHI got a lot of goodwill simply because it was the first of its kind. Looking at it with the critical eye of someone who came of age during the days of MechWarrior 2, the plot was flimsy and at times nonsensical, the sound effects were either hilarious or nonexistent, and the game’s visuals were what I’d imagine a coked-out pixel artist’s rendition of Robotech would look like.

On the plus side, CHI needed to happen in order for every other BattleTech game to come after it. Plus, the Phoenix Hawk LAM is always pretty cool.

I give it two stars out of five.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

BattleTech Tips And Tools Of The Trade

Centurion

I’ve now clocked in a solid 100 hours in BattleTech, with my latest run being focused on using what I’ve learned from my previous character to run through the plot in an ideal way. No lack of ‘Mechs, pilots, or components will mar my perfect experience. I’ll always get the ‘Mech I want, and I even went so far as to mod the game so I started off with a bespoke lance consisting of a Firestarter, Jenner, Shadow Hawk SHD-2D, and a Griffin GRS-1S.

That was just so I could have a slightly different experience than my previous playthrough. Since everything is randomized, all ‘Mechs after the first few missions will always be different outside of the story missions, so I didn’t have any concerns about boredom after I got started.

But now that I’ve achieved what I’d like to consider as “veteran” status in the game, I felt it right that I bestow upon you, dear Sarna reader, some of the tips I’ve learned in my career as a mercenary lance commander.

Locust

To start, I’ve always found that grinding out a bunch of easy missions early on will make the tougher missions that much easier for you later. The reason here is that grinding simple missions gives you XP that will make your pilots better. Once a pilot reaches certain milestones they get a huge power boost which can help turn the tide of a battle in your favor.

“Being able to move and shoot first is huge.”

One thing I’ve found to be a huge boon is the Master Tactician skill. Found under the Tactics tree at level 8, it allows your ‘Mechs to move at a higher initiative. This means that Assault ‘Mechs move at the same time as Heavy ‘Mechs, Heavies move at the same time as Mediums, and Medium ‘Mechs move at the same time as Lights.

Being able to move and shoot first is huge. If you can take out a few dangerous opponents before they have a chance to fire it will allow you to take on waves of opponents that would seem impossible to defeat on paper.

Master Tactician will always come with Sensor Lock as a secondary skill, which leaves tertiary skill to choose. I like to have a mix of Bulwark, Evasive Movement, and Multi-Target for my pilots. Bulwark is good for heavies and assaults to belly up to the line and face-tank whatever the enemy throws at them, while Evasive Movement is great for scouts and fast-movers. Multi-Target is better for missions with a lot of soft targets such as tanks or structures, but it can be difficult to predict if a mission will throw a swarm of Galleons at you or not.

Spider

What ‘Mechs you use is far more dependant on what ‘Mechs you fight than anything else (unless you want to mod the game as I did), but there are a few to keep an eye out for thanks to their weapon-efficient loadouts.

The Shadow Hawk SHD-2D is a personal favorite. You can load it up with 1,000 armor, 3 Medium Lasers, 2 SRM-6s, and 2 Small Lasers to turn it into a tough and deadly brawler. For whatever reason, the Shadow Hawk deals increased melee damage compared to other Medium ‘Mechs–closer to a 70-ton Heavy–so it’s the perfect design to get up close and personal with.

Light ‘Mechs eventually become too poorly armored to use later in the game (although I’ve heard some skilled commanders have beaten the game entirely with Light ‘Mechs), but the Firestarter is another close-range brawler that is utterly terrifying. Keep the Flamers or swap them for a battery of Small Lasers, and either way, once it gets in close whatever it’s fighting is dead.

The Shadow Hawk SHD-2D is the perfect design to get up close and personal with.

The Orion is relatively common and can be customized to be almost anything: a close-range brawler, a long-range sniper, or even a missile boat. In the Assault category, I came across quite a few Highlanders in my first playthrough and found them all to be equally amazing.

Short Range Missiles are, ton for ton, the most weight-efficient way of dealing damage. Before the latest patch they were utterly devastating when combined with Precision Strike, the ability that allows you to use morale to target specific components, but since then their ability to core a ‘Mech in a single salvo has diminished somewhat. Still, they’re potent, and a personal favorite of mine.

Laser boats were previously too hot to be effective, but the patch has also lowered the heat cost of Large Lasers to the point where they might be usable. I’ll have to do more testing, but I’m looking forward to finding a Black Knight or a Grasshopper to test it out.

If you can find a PPC+++ then they might be worth using, but generally I found them to generate too much heat for too little damage to be of much use.

Long range weapons aren’t really all that great in BattleTech thanks to a fog of war that reduces visibility to barely a few meters in front of you. If you feel you must take something with some range, Long Range Missiles are your best bet. They can fire over obstacles to soften your opponents up, and they deal a ton of stability damage with the right mods.

Autocannons are certainly better balanced in this game than on the tabletop, but they’re still not efficient enough in terms of damage per ton to compare with lasers and SRMs. On Assault ‘Mechs it’s not so big a deal since they have tonnage to spare, but on Medium and Heavy ‘Mechs, it’s strictly worse than a loadout weighted toward missiles and lasers.

One last thing: the key to success in BattleTech is using your Precision Strike and Vigilance abilities to their fullest. This means that opting for some increase morale upgrades in the early game might be even more important than faster repairs or healing in the med bay. Just have a team of 8 or more pilots and swap them out when they get a little banged up.

A veteran I may be, but I’m still far from a BattleTech expert. Think you might be one? Then submit your tips and tricks in the comment section below to prove it!

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.  

stay syrupy

Harmony Gold And Piranha Games Lawsuit Has Been “Resolved”

Atlas Punch

Harmony Gold’s lawsuit against BattleTech and it’s various creators looks to finally be over. And this time, just maybe, it’s over for good.

Piranha Games President Russ Bullock took to the MechWarrior Online forums to make an official announcement on the settlement between PGI and Harmony Gold. He was necessarily brief with his words as the exact details of the settlement were not disclosed. However, he was able to offer this approved wording:

“Harmony Gold and Piranha Games are delighted to announce that they have ended their dispute. Piranha Games will continue to use the “classic” BattleTech designs and Harmony Gold and Piranha Games look forward to continuing to serve their respective fans and customers.”

Standard disclaimer: I’m no lawyer, but this seems like a win. It essentially means that Piranha Games can continue to use the Unseen ‘Mech designs currently in MechWarrior Online, and likely can put a few into the upcoming MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries as well. 

Thanks to the kind folks over at the BattleTech subreddit, we also have a copy of the court documents for people to verify with more legally-trained eyes.

Robotech courtesy of Mecha Talk

courtesy of Mecha Talk

Note the use of “dismissal with prejudice” in the court docs. This means that whatever terms were agreed upon for the settlement, Harmony Gold cannot bring the same case before the courts again. In order to sue PGI they’d have to convince a judge that the new case isn’t the same as the old one, which would probably be a very tough thing to do after all this litigation.

And even if Harmony Gold convinced a judge that there’s a new case to argue, they’d still be right back where we last left them before the settlement: with PGI arguing that Harmony Gold doesn’t even own the copyrights and can’t sue as a result.

That’s not to say that a new lawsuit isn’t impossible. We don’t know the terms of the settlement, so whatever deal they worked out might only be for the current generation of games. A new game, say BattleTech 2 or MechWarrior 6, might not be protected by this settlement (if Unseen designs are used) and be subject to another lawsuit.

Another big deal is that this settlement drops the claims against everyone, including Catalyst Game Labs. We no longer have to worry about HG shutting down the tabletop side of things just because of a dispute in the virtual world of video games.

Now, there’s a lot of debate over on the official BattleTech forums about what suddenly brought this case to a settlement when PGI seemed like they were all-in on their arguments against Harmony Gold. Maybe HG managed to get that letter rogatory from Big West authorizing them to defend copyrights that they owned? Or maybe there was something even bigger hidden in HG’s arsenal that we might never know about.

All we can say for sure is that this looks to be the end of the road for this current spat of legal issues for now, and maybe, hopefully, forever.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

MechWarrior 5 Delayed Until 2019

courtesy of mw5mercs.com

courtesy of mw5mercs.com

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries has been delayed until 2019.

The news comes straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, with Piranha Games President Russ Bullock making the announcement on his Twitter page.

The move to delay seems to acknowledge the responsibility PGI feels in bringing the “the first single player experience MechWarrior title released since 2002″ to a competitive market. Delaying until 2019 will allow them to deliver the best single-player MechWarrior experience to date” and ensure MechWarrior 5 lives up to the high standards set by modern ‘Mech games.

As much as many a salty MechWarrior Online fan might see this as an indication that their previous online-only ‘Mech game is finally fizzling out, this is probably not the case. MechWarrior Online doesn’t publish it’s player counts, but Steam Charts has given the average number of Steam players at around 2,000 for years now, with undoubtedly thousands more simply playing directly via the MWO Portal.

What is far more likely is PGI’s understanding that a single-player game like MechWarrior 5 will need to be done right in order to capture the imagination of not just MechWarrior fans but also sci-fi sim-shooter fans in general. They’ve got their eyes set on a much larger prize than just the BattleTech faithful, and more power to them.

I got a very brief taste of MW5 at Mech_Con last year and it was… rough. Granted, it was a pre-alpha build that had been running on the same rig for most of the day, but it definitely suffered from lost frames and performance issues. It was also just a brief rampage through an enemy base without anything along the lines of an actual plot.

You can bet that story, level design, and all the trappings of a real single-player game are going to become a renewed focus for the developers with the extra time they’ve just given themselves.

courtesy of mw5mercs.com

courtesy of mw5mercs.com

Bullock confirmed in a response to a follower’s tweet that the delay has absolutely nothing to do with the ongoing legal issues between PGI and the despicable Harmony Gold. I might be reading a little between the lines (or letters, in this case), but my bet is this is all strictly so that the developers can make a better game.

Most of the responses on Twitter were positive, appreciating the move for quality over a rush-job. To be frank, I’m of the same mind here. Nothing annoys me more than a game I’ve waited to play for years only to find it delivered as a heaping pile of digital manure. That’s what PGI is afraid of, and rightly so.

We’ll get a better idea of when MechWarrior 5 will release at this year’s Mech_Con.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

Harmony Gold and Piranha Games Have Settled – Probably

Harmony Gold and Piranha Games have settled according to recently filed court documents.

Unlike last time when Harebrained Schemes had their case with HG dismissed two months ago, we’re going to keep our champagne bottles firmly corked and the confetti safely ensconced in whatever container confetti is normally ensconced in (I don’t actually know anything about confetti–is it a tin? A can?).

According to court documents filed in Washington District Court on June 7th, MechWarrior Online creators Piranha Games have reached a settlement agreement with hated patent trolls, Harmony Gold.

“Plaintiff Harmony Gold U.S.A., Inc. (‘Harmony Gold’) and Defendant Piranha Games Inc. (‘Piranha’) have agreed to a settlement in principle of this case,” the document reads, “but need time to prepare the written settlement documents.”

The motion goes on to state that if things fall apart then the case will proceed as it had previously.

As for what that settlement might entail, that we don’t know. And we may never know–legal settlements are often subject to non-disclosure agreements that will prevent us from ever knowing for sure if Harmony Gold will rear their ugly heads to rain on our parade.

BUT, and I say this as a non-lawyer with absolutely no background to draw from (sorry, our resident lawyer is on vacation and wasn’t able to comment as of the time of this writing), it seems likely that PGI paid off Harmony Gold with a stipulation that they cannot come after them for their upcoming game, MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries.

Unless the settlement details get disclosed the only way to tell is to wait and see what ‘Mechs Piranha Games opts to put in their upcoming single-player MechWarrior game. If there’s no Marauders, Warhammers, or Riflemen, then we’ll have our answer.

On the plus side, the Shadow Hawk, Griffin, and many more Unseen ‘Mechs are still present in Harebrained’s BattleTech, so we know that whatever settlement they reached in April didn’t take those iconic ‘Mechs away for good.

We’ll be sure to keep you up to date as we get more info.

And as always, MechWarriors: Stay Syrupy.

stay syrupy

The Succession Wars and so much more…

Way back in August 2013 we featured an article on Scrapyard Armory’s Succession Wars online game. With the surge in popularity of BattleTech both in virtual and physical formats we thought now was a good time to revisit this great game.

Based on the 1987 table top board game by FASA, Scrapyard Armory’s Succession Wars recreates the struggles of the five Great Houses in an online multiplayer environment. Players take control of the Great Houses and fight, negotiate and backstab their way to domination over the entire Inner Sphere. The board game featured two scenarios: the primary one is set in 3025, around the time of the 4th Succession War, with an alternate set at the outbreak of the 1st Succession War in 2786. Both of these scenarios have been lovingly recreated.

Since our last article the community at Scrapyard Armory has grown considerably and a team of content creators have expanded the free, playable scenarios (also called Orders of Battle) to phenomenal levels. Now you can play games ranging through the BattleTech timeline from 2550 to 3145. Custom maps for many of these games let you recreate The Age of War, the rise and the fall of the Star League, The Clans: Operation Klondike (a 2 player scenario), the 1st, 2nd and 4th Succession Wars, the Clan Invasion, the rise of the Word of Blake, and on to the Renaissance of 3145.

One of SYA’s content creators and a six-year veteran of the site, ‘Jimmy the Tulip’, spoke to us about creating Succession Wars scenarios. “What I love about what Scrapyard Armory has developed here is the flexibility to really get in and create something in incredible detail. The ability to create new maps, adding units and leaders and coming up with new ways of using the game mechanics to make something truly unique keeps me coming up with new ideas.”

Jimmy went on to talk about playing the games. “The tension can really be palpable at times, especially when you have a group all online simultaneously. Even when you’re waiting for actions to be taken you can study the map, think about strategies for taking out your opponents and really delve into what makes grand scale strategic games great. I’ve made some great friends while playing this game too. The community is fantastic.”

With a total of 19 different scenarios currently live (and more in development) Scrapyard Armory’s Succession Wars offers an immersion into the BattleTech universe in unprecedented fashion. There is a small amount of variation in the rules from the original board game in order to better facilitate the online nature of the game but, aside from that, the games play true to the nature and feel of its originator. The Development Team continues to work on ironing out the occasional bug and has provided a wide array of Orders of Battle and game options, including custom cards, the ability to play with Battle Armor units and over-size JumpShips, to provide nearly limitless replayability. A small team of Admins are also active to assist new players and veterans alike.

If you haven’t already signed up, run on over and check them out at Succession Wars. Join in one of the many games on offer or, if you’re bold, create a game of your own and take on the community there. Remember…. No guts, no galaxy!